Matthew 1:1
(1) The book of the generation.--The opening words of the Gospel show that it is written by a Jew for Jewish readers. They are an essentially Hebrew formula (as in Genesis 5:1), and were applied chiefly though not exclusively (Genesis 37:2) to genealogies such as that which follows here.

Jesus Christ.--The collocation of names was not so much a thing of course when St. Matthew wrote as it now seems to us. There were many who bore the name of Jesus--e.g., Jesus the son or Sirach, Jesus surnamed Justus (Colossians 4:11), possibly even Jesus Bar-abbas (Matthew 27:17). It was necessary to state that the genealogy that followed was that of Jesus the Messiah, the true "anointed" of the Lord.

The son of David.--This, of course, was added as the most popular of all the names of the expected Christ, owned alike by scribes and Rabbis (Matthew 22:42), by children (Matthew 21:9), and by the poor (Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30).

The son of Abraham.--There is no reason to think that this was ever a specially Messianic title. If there is any special significance in its occurrence here, it is as emphasising that which the Messiah had in common with other Israelites. He was thus as a brother to them all, even to the despised publican (Luke 19:9), as being the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed (Genesis 22:18). The former thought appears in another book specially written, like this Gospel, for Hebrews--"On the seed of Abraham he layeth hold" (Hebrews 2:16).

(1) Nothing can be inferred directly from St. Matthew's phrase "till she had brought forth" as to what followed after the birth. The writer's purpose is obviously to emphasise the absence of all that might interfere with the absolutely supernatural character of the birth itself. (2) Nothing can be inferred with certainty from the mention of our Lord's "brethren" in Matthew 12:46 (see Note there), and elsewhere. They may have been children of Joseph by a former marriage, or by what was known as a levirate marriage with the widow of a deceased brother, under the law of Deuteronomy 25:5, Matthew 22:24, or children by adoption, or cousins included under the general name of brethren. (3) The fact that the mother of our Lord found a home with the beloved disciple (John 19:27) and not with any of the "brethren" points, as far as it goes, to their not being her own children, but it does not go far enough to warrant any positive assertion. Scripture therefore supplies no data for any decision on either side, nor does any tradition that can really be called primitive. The reverence for virginity as compared with marriage in the patristic and mediaeval Church made the "ever-virgin" to be one of the received titles of the mother of the Lord. The reaction of natural feeling against that reverence led men in earlier and later times to assert the opposite. Every commentator is influenced consciously or unconsciously by his leanings in this or that direction. And so the matter must rest.

Verse 1. - The book of the generation. As St. Matthew was writing only for Jews, and they, by reason of their Old Testament prophecies, looked for the Messiah to be born of a certain family, he begins his Gospel with a pedigree of Jesus. In this he mentions, by way of introduction, the two points to which his countrymen would have special regard - the descent of Jesus from David, the founder of the royal line, him in whose descendants the Ruler of Israel must necessarily (2 Samuel 7:13-16) be looked for; and also from Abraham, who was the head of the covenant nation, and to whom the promise had been given that in his seed all the nations of the earth should bless themselves (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 12:3). After this he proceeds to fill up the intervening steps in the genealogy. The spelling of the names in the Authorized Version accords with the Greek, and so varies from the Old Testament orthography; but for the sake of the English reader it is certainly advisable to do what has been done in the Revised Version, viz. to conform the spelling to that of the Old Testament, and, where the Greek varies much, to put that form in the margin. It is better to write Rahab than Raehab, and Shealtiel than Salathiel. Those who read the Greek Gospels when these were first written read also the Old Testament in Greek, and so were in no confusion. The first verse of the Gospel is doubtless intended as a preface to what is contained in vers. 2-17. It is, indeed, true that the phrase, "the book of the generation" (βίβλος γενέσεως, equivalent to sepher toledoth, Genesis 5.1), might in itself point rather to events and works connected with the active life of him whose name it precedes (cf. the use of toledoth in Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; even Genesis 2:4, et al.) , and thus might refer to the whole of ch. 1. (Kubel), or even the whole of the First Gospel (Keil); yet the addition of the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, by summarizing the genealogy, limits the reference of ver. 1 to this alone. Observe

(1) that the same word (γένεσις) recurs in ver. 18; but being without βίβλος, has a slightly different meaning;

(2) that the word translated" generation" in ver. 17 is γενέα, and means a single stratum of human life. The evangelist uses the name Jesus Christ here as a proper name, customary in later Christian circles (cf. John 1:17, and especially the traces of development from 1 Corinthians 12:3 and Romans 10:9 to Philippians 2:11). "Christ" is not used in its signification of "Messiah," or "Anointed," till ver. 17, where it would be better rendered "the Christ."

1:1-17 Concerning this genealogy of our Saviour, observe the chief intention. It is not a needless genealogy. It is not a vain-glorious one, as those of great men often are. It proves that our Lord Jesus is of the nation and family out of which the Messiah was to arise. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; of the dominion, to David and his seed. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him, Ge 12:3; 22:18; and to David that he should descend from him, 2Sa 7:12; Ps 89:3, &c.; 132:11; and, therefore, unless Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, he is not the Messiah. Now this is here proved from well-known records. When the Son of God was pleased to take our nature, he came near to us, in our fallen, wretched condition; but he was perfectly free from sin: and while we read the names in his genealogy, we should not forget how low the Lord of glory stooped to save the human race.The book of the generation of Jesus Christ,.... This is the genuine title of the book, which was put to it by the Evangelist himself; for the former seems to be done by another hand. This book is an account, not of the divine, but human generation of Christ; and not merely of his birth, which lies in a very little compass; nor of his genealogy, which is contained in this chapter; but also of his whole life and actions, of what was said, done, and suffered by him. It is an Hebrew way of speaking, much like that in Genesis 5:1 and which the Septuagint render by the same phrase as here; and as that was the book of the generation of the first Adam; this is the book of the generation of the second Adam. The Jews call their blasphemous history of the life of Jesus, "The book of the generations of Jesus" (o). This account of Christ begins with the name of the Messiah, well known to the Jews,

the son of David; not only to the Scribes and Pharisees, the more learned part of the nation, but to the common people, even to persons of the meanest rank and figure among them. See Matthew 9:27. Nothing is more common in the Jewish writings, than for "the son of David" to stand alone for the Messiah; it would be endless to cite or refer to all the testimonies of this kind; only take the following (p),

"R. Jochanan says, in the generation in which "the son of David" comes, the disciples of the wise men shall be lessened, and the rest, their eyes shall fail with grief and sorrow, and many calamities and severe decrees shall be renewed; when the first visitation is gone, a second will hasten to come. It is a tradition of the Rabbins (about) the week (of years) in which "the son of David" comes, that in the first year this scripture will be fulfilled, Amos 4:7. "I will rain upon one city", &c. in the second, arrows of famine will be sent forth; in the third there will be a great famine, and men, women and children, holy men and men of business will die, and the law will be forgotten by those who learn it; in the fourth there will be plenty and not plenty; in the fifth there will be great plenty, and they shall eat and drink and rejoice, and the law shall return to them that learn it; in the sixth there will be voices (or thunders;) in the seventh there will be wars; and in the going out of the seventh the "son of David" comes. The tradition of R. Judah says, In the generation in which "the son of David" comes, the house of the congregation (the school or synagogue) shall become a brothel house, Galilee shall be destroyed, and Gabalene shall become desolate; and the men of Gabul (or the border) shall go about from city to city, and shall find no mercy; and the wisdom of the scribes shall stink; and they that are afraid to sin shall be despised; and the face of that generation shall be as the face of a dog, and truth shall fail, as it is said, Isaiah 59:15 --The tradition of R. Nehorai says, In the generation in which "the son of David" comes, young men shall make ashamed the faces of old men, and old men shall stand before young men, the daughter shall rise up against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; nor will a son reverence his father. The tradition of R. Nehemiah says, In the generation in which "the son of David" comes, impudence will increase, and the honourable will deal wickedly, and the whole kingdom will return to the opinion of the Sadducees, and there will be no reproof. --It is a tradition of the Rabbins, that "the son of David" will not come, until traitorous practices are increased, or the disciples are lessened or until the smallest piece of money fails from the purse, or until redemption is despaired of.''

In which passage, besides the proof for which it is cited, may be observed, how exactly the description of the age of the Messiah, as given by the Jews themselves, agrees with the generation in which Jesus the true Messiah came; who as he was promised to David, and it was expected he should descend from him, so he did according to the flesh; God raised him up of his seed, Romans 1:3 it follows,

The son of Abraham. Abraham was the first to whom a particular promise was made, that the Messiah should spring from, Genesis 22:18. The first promise in Genesis 3:15 only signified that he should be the seed of the woman; and it would have been sufficient for the fulfilment of it, if he had been born of any woman, in whatsoever nation, tribe, or family; but by the promise made to Abraham he was to descend from him, as Jesus did; who took upon him the seed of Abraham, Hebrews 2:16 or assumed an human nature which sprung from him, and is therefore truly the son of Abraham. The reason why Christ is first called the son of David, and then the son of Abraham, is partly because the former was a more known name of the Messiah; and partly that the transition to the genealogy of Christ might be more easy and natural, beginning with Abraham, whom the Jews call (q) the "head of the genealogy", and the root and foundation of it, as Matthew here makes him to be; wherefore a Jew cannot be displeased with the Evangelist for beginning the genealogy of our Lord at, Abraham.

(o) Apud Wagenseil. Tela Ignea. (p) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 97. 1. Shir Hashirim Rabba, fol. 11. 4. (q) Juchasin, fol. 8. 1. Tzeror Hammor. fol. 29. 3. & 154. 4.

Malachi 4:6
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